In my last post, I looked at where the Union could go wrong in 2015. Now, let’s be a little more positive. I think this is the most talented Philadelphia Union team we have ever seen. Where could this season go right for the Union?
1. Nando is the forward we have never had
Up until now, the aging Connor Casey has likely been the best forward in this team’s history (unless you count Seba as a forward). Nando has the potential to seize that title this season. He already has two goals to his name this year.
Let’s take a look at Nando the player. He is big, strong, a hard-worker, and a good finisher who so far seems cunning enough to put himself in good spaces. He is like Jack McInerney that is big and actually puts in effort. His first goal against Colorado is a testament to this work ethic. Jack would have quit on the play far sooner and would not have been in the position to tap in that rebound.
Last year, one of our biggest issues was that an aging Connor Casey was our only goalscorer on the team. Now, we have a young player who will be a real threat to score. Goals shouldn’t be an issue this year.
2. Chaco has a full year with this team
At his best last year, Chaco was among the league leaders in assists. He brought a level of creativity that we have only ever seen from Roger Torres and Kleberson. In his two games this season, Chaco has been the clear engine of this team that has driven the attack forward.
Importantly, he has a full year with this team and a fresh off-season under his belt. He had fitness concerns last, but it is worth noting that he came to Philly in the middle of the Argentinian season. He didn’t have a true off-season break last year.
If Chaco stays healthy and Curtin starts him, expect big things from the Argentinian #10.
3. Jim Curtin is the manager we need
Piotr Nowak understood tactics, but he was too flexible. His only consistency was his lack of consistency. New players started every week in a different tactical set up.
On the flip side, John Hackworth was as rigid and stubborn as they come. Hack refused to change his formation when it didn’t work, and he persisted in using the same players until it was clear to everyone that it wasn’t working. I still can’t get out of my mind the horror of watching both Michael Farfan and Keon Daniel attempt to play the #10 role.
Further, Hack constantly outsmarted himself and attempted to play people out of position. Amobi was not a center back. Keon and Michael were not 10’s. Wheeler certainly was not a center back. Wenger was not a forward. The constant experiments caused needless problems for this team.
Jim Curtin looks like he will be the happy mix of the two. He has a formation he prefers in a 4-2-3-1. However, he has worked in the 4-4-2 and shows a willingness to adapt if his plans aren’t working. Instead of persisting with the ineffectual 4-4-2 against Colorado, he replaced the injured Sapong with Chaco and switched to a five man midfield.
Plus, much of Curtin’s early success consisted of putting players in their natural positions where they could succeed. Maurice Edu was the lone exception, but you can make the case he would make a better center back than defensive midfielder. Regardless, the point is moot as Mo is back in the midfield.
If Curtin continues to bring the best of Nowak and Hackworth, he should have success this year.
4. We have depth!
Two major issues sunk this team last year: the lack of a goal scorer and the lack of depth. This was most evident in the Open Cup Final last year when Seattle was able to bring players like Obafemi Martins off the bench while we brought on Pedro Ribeiro.
The new signings have pushed some players to the bench while new acquisitions have given us some new bench options. Instead of bringing on Pedro Ribeiro or Brian Brown off the bench to put up top when we need a goal, we will be bringing Connor Casey, CJ Sapong, and Dzenan Catic.
Part of this will hinge upon how well we bring along our youth. Zach Pfeffer and Jimmy McLaughlin would be fantastic sparks off the bench. One provides a like for like sub for Chaco, and the other brings us a natural winger who runs at defenders and plays with aggression and tenacity. Both provide roles we did not have last year.
If we use our depth appropriately, we should not have the same level of burn out and the same ineffectiveness when chasing a game that we saw last year.
5. There are more playoff spots
This is slightly cheap on my part, but one extra playoff spot clearly improves our chances of finally returning to the playoffs.
What say you Union fans? Did I miss anything? What else will go right with this team?